hesitant on how it would all pull together, except I know that Alexis Hall has never dissapointed me before, and so I trusted that he would have it well in hand and that it would all come together. It did. It really, really did. I have been burned before on Historical romance and bad takes, but I never should have doubted. Hall creates characters that you are almost immediately invested in and from the jump I knew that Viola and Gracewood were endgame and it was just a matter of how they would get there.
Hall does something that I deeply appreciate with this book- Viola's gender is key to the story, and key to her growth as a person and key to her relationship with Gracewood. The fact that it was something that wasn't spoken about at that time in history is made clear, but, and this is where Hall nails it- Viola's gender is not treated as the big bad in the plot. It's a concern in so much as she is worried about how it will impact her closest relationships, but at the end of the day the people who love her, love her. Their hurt comes primarily from the fact that she felt that she couldn't tell them, that they had given her any reason to doubt their love and acceptance... but never for becoming who she was always meant to be. Hall weaves the internal worry that comes with the not knowing how people will react perfectly, and makes it clear that no matter what, you deserve love and acceptance.
And that message carries over to all the characters- Gracewood is suffering both mentally and physically from the things he encountered at Waterloo. He is grappling with the loss of his best friend and the loss of the man he thought he was supposed to become. At a time when he believes he needs to project strength, instead he feels hopeless and the injuries to his leg have left him feeling like he can never be the man he thinks he must. His sister Mira is also a bit lost. She knows what she is supposed to do and who she is supposed to be, knows that it is expected for her to find a husband and begin a family, but her wants and desires leave her a bit on the outside of traditional society. With both Gracewood and Mira, Hall again reminds us that it's okay to be who you are, it's okay to not meet the expectations of those around you (especially those who do not actually care for you), and it's okay to chase your dreams even if others don't understand them. That again, no matter what, you deserve love and acceptance.
I love historical fiction and I love a good romance. This one hits both notes perfectly and I'm hoping that Hall will allow us to keep visiting with these characters- I'd love to check back in with Viola and Gracewood and their family and I would especially love to join Mira on some adventures.
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